The Bar Hop: Happy Stan By Karl Too & VCR
Like day and night, the times of day that coffee and cocktails are habitually drunk, both beverages are poles apart. Very occasionally the Venn diagram overlaps.
Sure a slew of cafés attempt to serve cocktails (emphasis on the verb 'attempt') and vice versa, but ABV (Alcohol By Volume measures the amount of ethanol in a given amount of solution) and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids determines the viscosity and strength of coffee) rarely receive their fair share of attention at any one venue.
A passion project by Karl Too of Omakase + Appreciate in collaboration with VCR, Happy Stan is a refreshing way of thinking of and thanking our forebears for having the guts to marry depressants with stimulants.
The bar-café pays homage to one predecessor in particular: Stanton Delaplane won a Pulitzer Prize for reportage in 1942, but is better known for popularising Irish Coffee in the United States a decade later.
Stan and the owner of the Buena Vista café spent hours perfecting the Irish Coffee method, floating the cream on top of the coffee to a point where he almost passed out...
"I wonder how much of this is true!" chortles my confrère after reading the menu aloud. Seeing as what happened with Saint Patrick and Saint Valentine, it's completely feasible that the myth may have outgrown the man.
Stanton Delaplane wrote like a young and happy and wholly successful pupil of Hemingway.
— Alistair Cooke
5 Thirst Quenchers
Apple & Rye
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond, Clarified Double Apple, Malic
Given the breadth of Happy Stan's menu, we anticipated that caffeine and/or alcohol would be absent from some of the 60 odd beverages.
Start with this caffeine-free cocktail if you plan on going on a bender. The 'apple of our rye' (pardon the pun), Karl's recommended aperitif shuns boxed juice in favour of the freshly squeezed stuff. Two types of pome fruit (Granny Smith and Washington Red) are clarified before the mixologist crafts his 'apple juice for adults.'
Happy Black Tonic
Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liquer, The London Essence Co Classic Tonic, Fresh Lime Peel
For those accustomed to Kahlúa, tasting Mr Black cold-pressed coffee liquor for the first time is like discovering jamón Ibérico after a lifetime of having luncheon meat—not that there's anything wrong with the latter in either instance, but fat-spun silk and quality coffee are always a treat. We've taken note to add the artisanal liquor to our personal stash when Wholly Spirits starts stocking it in January 2020—all the better for spiking our morning coffee.
Noir Cha (On Tap)
Mr Black Coffee Amaro, Genmaicha, Nutmeg, Citric
Adding to Happy Stan's allure is its array of solutions on tap: the Noir Cha, the Nitro Espresso Highball, and the High Tea Scent. The first of these is also paid a visit by Mr Black, this time sporting accents of Amaro. The citrusy coffee cocktail is topped with a charred leaf and topped off with genmaicha, making for a drink that's tannic, but not too mouth-drying.
Spiced Girl (Non-Alcoholic)
Seedlip Spice 94, Chapada De Minas Cold Brew, Cardamom Infused Trigona Honey, Acid-Adjusted Grapefruit
Like decaf coffee, non-alcoholic spirits are antithetical. Neither do either taste great.
For this reason, it was a revelation when we first tasted Seedlip at one of Copper's hotly discussed themed dinners. Hailing from a UK-based distillery, the non-alcoholic spirit is also a key component in the Spiced Girl, a Happy Stan signature (mocktails marked ‘HS Signature’ were developed by Karl whereas anything labelled 'Seedlip Signature' represent recipes patented by Seedlip). Resembling miniature oeufs à la neige, two jasmine blossoms float on the surface of our drink, perfuming the perimeter of the glass.
Cold Irish Coffee
Teeling Single Malt Whiskey, Honey & Muscovado, Cold Filter Coffee, Double Cream
'Cheap' ingredients sometimes work better at recreating nostalgic flavours, but today isn't the case—by replacing coarse table sugar with soft peaks of Muscovado and ropy honey, the Cold Irish Coffee at Happy Stan is nothing short of nirvana.
“You’ve got a milk moustache,” laughs a friend after I surface from an especially deep sip. It takes but a few languid licks of the lips to get 'clean-shaven.' The perfect dessert cocktail, Happy Stan's tribute to Stanton Delaplane feels like a poetic way to end our review—we've come full circle.
Happy Stan | M.06, Republik Damansara Heights, 1 Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur | 03 2011 0605 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Full menu | Open daily, 11am-1am.
- Photography Khairul Imran